Song writing tip

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Song writing tip

Post by RobinDorset »

Here's a song writing tip you might not have heard! (or maybe you have?)

Use at least one chord with a "non scale tone" note in it. (dominant 7ths not included, I mean they can be but that's not the tip)

eg: in the key of C major use at least one of the following chords:

A major, D major, E major, Ab major, Bb major, F minor, G minor.

Could also be major or minor 7ths but the key point is to have a non major scale tone in at least one chord somewhere in the song.
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Re: Song writing tip

Post by MOF »

It sounds a bit arbitrary, surely it’s what chords best support the melody that should be uppermost in your songwriting; unless you don’t have a melody yet and you’re suggesting interesting chord sequences to inspire the melody.
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Re: Song writing tip

Post by blinddrew »

Interesting idea, thanks. :thumbup:
Of course in my case I'd need to go and google what non-scales notes were in whatever piece I was working on, but it should be easier for people less ignorant! :)
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Re: Song writing tip

Post by Sam Spoons »

I'm guessing you can recognise/play a scale by ear Drew? If so then using the notes that are not in that scale adds a different flavour to a tune. I'm also guessing that that is more or less what the OP is suggesting, that by using chords that contain these note will add interest to a song.
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Re: Song writing tip

Post by blinddrew »

Sam Spoons wrote: Tue Jun 28, 2022 4:46 pm I'm guessing you can recognise/play a scale by ear Drew?

Maybe... :?

If so then using the notes that are not in that scale adds a different flavour to a tune. I'm also guessing that that is more or less what the OP is suggesting, that by using chords that contain these note will add interest to a song.

Yep, agree absolutely about the value of it. :thumbup:
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Re: Song writing tip

Post by RichardT »

That is a good tip, it really does add some interest to a tune.
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Re: Song writing tip

Post by RobinDorset »

MOF wrote: Tue Jun 28, 2022 4:17 pm It sounds a bit arbitrary, surely it’s what chords best support the melody that should be uppermost in your songwriting; unless you don’t have a melody yet and you’re suggesting interesting chord sequences to inspire the melody.


Not at all. You should be able to have at least one chord which has a note that is not in the major scale without affecting the relationship with the melody. it will compliment it and add colour and dynamics. Lots of chords can support the same melody. In a "pop" song just one chord with one note that is not in the major scale can add a lot to it. In C, A major and D major are good alternatives for Am and Dm. gives you a C# or F# which are both not in the C major scale. F minor is also used a lot in songs in C major. gives you an Ab. Give it a try. I think it's a very old trick. I'm just being analytical about music as it's something I've noticed in many great songs.
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Re: Song writing tip

Post by OneWorld »

Here another tip, use any note you want, the rules of harmony are a guide, a ‘sounding board’ they are not prescriptive, they allow a combo to have a touchstone, eg “This is in the key of C major” you have an idea of what chords to expect. But you do say songwriting, yes use any note you want, often the difficulty is, once you’ve strayed off the path, the clever bit is getting back on the path seamlessly and effectively.
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Re: Song writing tip

Post by Sam Spoons »

My experience tells me that some 'wrong' notes sound great, others just 'grate'. If I can ever work out which are which my solos will improve 100% :blush:
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Re: Song writing tip

Post by OneWorld »

Sam Spoons wrote: Tue Jun 28, 2022 9:18 pm My experience tells me that some 'wrong' notes sound great, others just 'grate'. If I can ever work out which are which my solos will improve 100% :blush:

It's back to the Morcombe and Wise quip "I am not playing wrong notes, I am playing all the right notes but in the wrong order"

And then of course there is Schoenberg with his Verklerte Nacht, the atonalists, where they played every note but the 'right' note with there being no 'central' focus based on the basic triad, where on a chromatic scale, the notes are independent of each other. Actually Bach used chromatic changes a lot, but somehow the music remained tuneful, I really like the way Bach holds a chord but the bass line moves about beneath it, usually a chromatic change

Another 'trick' is to have 2 unrelated chords played at once, more easily done on the piano, one chord in the left hand, another chord in the right hand, there will be a clash, a note aching to be resolved at the same time as another note which might be the 9th of the scale, essentially you have the choice of two chords to resolve, gives a lot of choice.

I go along with the general rule, if it sounds right it is right
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Re: Song writing tip

Post by GilesAnt »

There are no rules to composition of course, though some things work better than others. However is isn't necessarily helpful to an aspiring composer to just say 'anything goes', so tips such as the one mentioned by the OP are a good step along the path I think, to break away from the tyranny of 3 chords.

By the way Verklerte Nacht is an amazing work - every time you 'expect' a chord Schoenberg does something different.
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Re: Song writing tip

Post by shufflebeat »

OneWorld wrote: Wed Jun 29, 2022 12:29 am
And then of course there is Schoenberg with his Verklerte Nacht, the atonalists, where they played every note but the 'right' note...

We've all done it, except some of us try to move on without drawing attention to it.

The act of putting a surprise major chord where a minor might be expected creates a similar effect to bolting on an augmented 5th or a flattened 7th. You get the usual, "aah!" followed by an uncertain, "ooh?", which resolves itself when the next chord change puts a context on all the fannying about.

Or not.
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